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More Communities Eligible For Storm Aid

League Executive Director Paul Meyer and N.C. Association of County Commissioners Executive Director Kevin Leonard have kept close tabs on the Hurricane Matthew recovery effort. They're seen here at a recent, statewide briefing on the matter.

Federal authorities have approved individual and community disaster assistance for seven more counties affected by Hurricane Matthew, bringing the total to 45. "As we begin to recover from Hurricane Matthew, this assistance will help local governments and families who need it the most," Gov. Pat McCrory said in a press release. The seven added counties are Anson, Carteret, Chatham, Northampton, Perquimans, Richmond and Scotland. According to the governor's office, authorities have to date approved nearly $64 million to help individuals impacted by Matthew. At the time of this writing, the 45 counties eligible to apply for individual and public assistance are Anson, Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chatham, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Gates, Greene, Halifax, Harnett, Hertford, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lee, Lenoir, Martin, Moore, Nash, Northampton, Onslow, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, Tyrrell, Wake, Washington, Wayne and Wilson. The governor's office also this week announced temporary federal housing assistance for storm-affected residents of certain counties. Click here for more info.

Individuals may apply for assistance at disasterassistance.gov. Local governments seeking to apply for public assistance have until Dec. 8 to file a Request for Public Assistance form (available here) with wendy.estes@ncdps.gov. To remind, N.C. Emergency Management has advised the League that any municipalities wanting to help local governments in eastern North Carolina with recovery efforts should contact their county emergency management directors and let them know what resources they are able to send. The county emergency management director can then upload the information to the State Emergency Operations Center so Emergency Management staff knows what resources are available. Then they can mobilize them to the areas of the state that need them.

Any impacted municipality that is not getting the resources it needs should contact the office of its county emergency management director to request assistance. If requests go unanswered, the municipality may contact Rob Shepherd, League Assistant Director of Business and Membership Development Services, at rshepherd@nlcm.org or (336) 456-7151.

Don't forget, you can still make monetary contributions to the relief effort at www.ncfoodbanks.org/NCLM, the League's special partnership with the N.C. Association of Feed America Food Banks. Donations can be made via PayPal account or with a debit or credit card.


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EPA Releases Stormwater Planning Guidance

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released new stormwater planning guidance. The document, "Community Solutions for Voluntary Long-Term Stormwater Planning," serves as a package of tools to help cities and towns plan long-term strategies for managing stormwater pollution. EPA states that the tools "promote the use of flexible solutions that spur economic growth, stimulate infrastructure investments, and help compliance with environmental requirements." The information provided includes a step-by-step guide for developing long-term stormwater plans, a web-based toolkit for the planning process, and technical assistance for five communities to develop plans as national models. EPA representatives explain that linking stormwater projects with broader planning activities can reduce costs for a community. This EPA release should dovetail nicely with the state’s plans to implement a voluntary sustainable stormwater initiative for MS4 permittees -- a project that is being assisted by League affiliates the Storm Water Association of North Carolina and the North Carolina chapter of APWA.

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Get the Word Out: Here We Grow is Your Free Resource

Municipalities across North Carolina are logging in to http://herewegrownc.org to tell their stories of homegrown economic development and revitalization. These stories, when gathered in one place as such, make for a powerful message about the efforts and smart investments of municipal government to improve hometown quality and opportunities -- boosting the entire state. Haven't checked it out yet? What are you waiting for? This FREE, important and moving campaign is your portal to speak in volumes and make a difference with your fellow cities and towns. Browse the stories at herewegrownc.org and send an email to about@herewegrownc.org to obtain a login. If you're with one of our municipalities, we'll send you a username and password so you can access the site and submit your story. And don't forget, you can also access a site toolkit that will allow you to:

  • Download a customizable PowerPoint presentation that both promotes the campaign and highlights your city or town’s efforts
  • Download a flyer that can be tailored around your investment story

There will be more to come as Here We Grow grows, and we're excited to have you on board with it. For more information, feel free to email Scott Mooneyham or Ben Brown on the League staff.


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Pension Fund Posts Gain

Third-quarter 2016 state pension fund returns are out, showing a 3.5 percent gain, according to a news release from the Department of State Treasurer. Over the past 12 months, the fund of retirement plans experienced an 8.4 percent gain. The fund's assets by the end of the third quarter were at an $89.8 billion value, up from $87.6 billion at the second quarter's end. Click here for a full report. The news comes as State Treasurer Janet Cowell winds down her service in the department, as she decided not to seek re-election. Since her time in office began in 2009, total pension fund assets have returned 8.39 percent per year, beating the 7.25 percent assumed rate, according to the department. Cowell in a statement recalled her office's work toward a strong fund. "We first had to stabilize the pension fund, which had lost more than 20 percent of its value in the months before I took office at the height of the recession," she said. "Then, we worked our way back and made strategic investments to optimize the fund for the future. As the office transitions to the next Treasurer, North Carolina has one of the four best-funded public pensions in the nation -- one that is well-situated for the long-term benefit of public employees."


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Rep. Torbett, Fellow Experts to Lead League Forum on Drones

Register now for the next League-sponsored education forum -- this time about drones and their implications for local government. The forum, which will feature state Rep. John Torbett of Stanley among other experts on the technology, is scheduled for Nov. 16, 9:30 a.m. to noon at the Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant meeting room, 8500 Battle Bridge Rd. in Raleigh. The format will include a look at the big picture with drones, a moderated panel discussion, and a question-and-answer period.

Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have been in our skies for years, but the near-future is set for exponential growth and new use of drone technology. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aerospace Forecast projects an increase in sales of UAVs from 2.5 million in 2016 to 7 million in 2020. As a result, a number of states and cities have taken action to address this enticing, yet sometimes problematic, technology. In June 2016, the FAA published regulations to govern the use of drones and established requirements for operators. These rules will create a spectrum of opportunities for redesigned traditional service offerings. Nevertheless, a proliferation in the use of drone technology will subsequently present uncharted territory for city governments. How will local policies address privacy, nuisances, trespassing, visual pollution and other public safety challenges?

The League’s UAV / Drone Education event will feature speakers and panelists with perspectives on the industry, programming, big-picture integration research, urban planning, legalities and policy. Parking is available on site. You may also participate remotely via webinar. Contact League Grassroots Initiative and Civic Engagement Associate Will Brooks at (919) 715-8154 or wbrooks@nclm.org with any questions.


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Longtime House Member Luebke Dies


Rep. Paul Luebke

The League was saddened to hear of the passing of Rep. Paul Luebke of Durham this past weekend. The longtime legislator, first elected in 1990, died on Saturday following complications from lymphoma, according to media reports. Luebke was 70. Both sides of the aisle will remember Luebke, a Democrat, as the underdog's unwavering legislator. "Paul had an unprecedented concern for working and marginalized communities and families," WRAL quoted of House Minority Leader Larry Hall. "Representative Luebke was a dedicated servant whose long career in education and in the General Assembly reflected his undeniable passion for serving his district and helping the people of North Carolina," Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement. House Speaker Tim Moore also provided a statement: "We are all fortunate to have served with such an honorable man who always stuck to his principles." Luebke had sought re-election in Durham County's District 30. The League's thoughts and prayers are with Luebke's family and friends in this difficult time.


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A Peek at the Next Municipal Equation: Economic Development Secrets

A new episode of Municipal Equation -- the League's popular biweekly podcast -- comes out on Tuesday, and it's all about local economic development -- tools, tips and insider knowledge to help cities and towns grow. Listen to a preview. It's important to recognize that economic development isn't just one thing. It can take one of many directions, each with its own terrain and set of tools for positive outcomes. Our expert guests, Mac McCarley and Ron Kimble -- among spotlight speakers at the League's recent CityVision 2016 conference -- break it down for us and offer hugely important know-how. Don't miss this episode.

Click here for all past episodes of the podcast, including the most recent, about the science and economics of trees in cities. It grew to be our most popular episode to date, thanks to the keen insights and surprising facts offered by our slate of national-caliber guests. Click here to listen. The podcast is available for free subscription on iTunes and can be found on mainstream podcast/radio apps like Stitcher, Google Play and TuneIn. Have an idea for a show? Contact host/producer Ben Brown at bbrown@nclm.org.


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West Jefferson Wins Nat'l 'Strongest Infrastructure Project' Contest

When the Stong Towns organization put out a national call for nominations of local, public projects that created exceptional community improvement, West Jefferson answered loudly and took the medal. The Ashe County town's "West Jefferson Revitalization," a public-private downtown redesign effort, won Strong Towns' "Strongest Infrastructure Project" by popular vote. "When the NCDOT announced the resurfacing of Jefferson Ave. in 2010/2011, the city decided to use it as an opportunity to revitalize a neglected commercial area, fulfilling a long-held desire that the community had expressed during a public charette in 2002, aided by North Carolina State University," the winner's narrative explained. The project removed overhead power lines, replaced traffic lights with stop signs, created bump-out curbs for better walkability and beautified the scene with new landscaping. The town also coordinated with the local arts council to place art in empty storefronts. "Today, West Jefferson has zero empty storefronts," says Strong Towns. "As a result of increased pedestrian activity on the street, many local business owners have also been inspired to renovate and beautify their existing storefronts." Read more and see photos here, where Town Manager Brantley Price explains how economic vitality is the big win from this project. Click here for media coverage.


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Former League Intern Martin Lands D.C. Role


Shawnda Martin

A former and much-missed League intern has landed a lead legislative affairs role in our nation's capital. Shawnda Martin, who worked as a legal intern with the League's government affairs team from summer 2014 to spring 2015, is now manager of legislative affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based Financial Services Institute (FSI). For the benefit of the organization's members, Martin will coordinate and oversee numerous, simultaneous projects as well as assist in the management of state and federal legislative issues. "At FSI, everything we do starts and ends with working to create a healthier, more business-friendly regulatory environment for our members -- the independent financial services firms and independent financial advisors who provide affordable, unbiased advice to hard-working Main Street Americans," said the organization's website. During her time with the League, Martin was of invaluable assistance in covering legislative committee meetings, monitoring bills and researching issues, all the while working toward graduation from the N.C. Central University School of Law. The League would like to congratulate Martin for her success and wish her the best in her new position.


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Still Time to Join a League Policy Committee!

There is still time to apply to serve on one of the League's policy committees, which is a great way to get involved in the advocacy efforts that benefit all cities and towns. The deadline to fill out an interest form is Nov. 18. You can return the form to Government Affairs Coordinator Karen Waddell. The Legislative Action Committees and Regulatory Action Committee serve a crucial role in developing League priorities and in making the needs of cities and towns known to state and federal policymakers. Get involved today!